Slow burn lovers, this one’s for you! And the best news? This is a complete standalone, so if you’re new to Penny, it’s the perfect place to jump in. This HEA requires some patience and the journey to get there might make you want to shake some sense into the heroine, but I loved the vast majority of it. The first few scenes had me absolutely hooked, and the mysterious, gruff hero has such a marshmallow heart. Trying to figure out his thoughts was half the fun – it’s told exclusively from the heroine’s point of view, which was good for most of the book (puzzling out the hero kept me engrossed), but detrimental in the middle (when the heroine was bugging me and I couldn’t get a read on the hero). This was an EASY 5-star rating for me for much of the book, but the lackluster middle almost pulled that rating down. In the end, I got that swoony feeling back, so I’m choosing to round up my rating.
The story follows Abby, a woman whose world is turned upside down when her former crush returns home for a visit. Rex wasn’t just any crush for Abby – he’s the guy she’s loved from afar since elementary school. The only problem is that Rex never noticed Abby, so that crush fizzled out years ago. Well… it at least went dormant for awhile. Now that Abby has come face-to-face with the man of her childhood dreams in an *ahem* unexpected way, all of those memories come flooding back. But Abby isn’t that starry-eyed girl anymore; she’s now a divorcée whose last relationship left permanent scars on her heart. And Rex isn’t asking for a relationship or even a date… he’s asking Abby to be his (fake) wife.
You’re probably wondering if this is a holiday romance. Eh, not really. Part of the book takes place around the holidays, but it’d be a stretch to call it that. This does have a light, feel good vibe though, and the end will get you in the Christmas spirit, so it’s more of a year-round read.
I LOVED the first several scenes, from the unique (second) meet cute to the obvious connection between the two. I also loved Rex from the start, and I was convinced that I knew exactly what he was thinking for awhile. The vulnerability hidden beneath his gruff exterior was heart-melting, and I loved the exploration of the “training wheels” storyline. Essentially, Rex is the guy that women always date BEFORE they find their HEA, so he’s used to getting left behind. And Abby has always felt invisible (especially to Rex), so she’s not convinced that she’ll ever be anyone’s HEA. The combination of their hangups makes this a layered, nuanced read… but it also makes the middle immensely frustrating. As both Abby and Rex struggle with their insecurities, things become a little tedious. But that was the only time when I wasn’t loving this book; the rest of it was GREAT. I was smiling at the start and swooning by the end, so I’m calling this one a win for sure – and here’s hoping that this becomes a new series of interconnected standalones, because the cast of characters has me itching for more.
Rex “TW” McMurtry’s perpetual single-hood wouldn’t bother him so much if all his ex-girlfriends didn’t keep marrying the very next person they dated, especially when so many of those grooms are his closest friends. He may be a pro-football defensive end for the Chicago Squalls, but the press only wants to talk about how he’s always a groomsman and never a groom. Rex is sick of being the guy before the husband, and he’s most definitely sick of being the best man at all their weddings.
Bartender Abigail McNerny is the gal-pal, the wing-woman, the she-BFF. She’s dated. Once. And once was more than enough. Privy to all the sad stories of her customers, ‘contentment over commitment’ is her motto, and Abby is convinced no one on earth could ever entice her into a romantic relationship . . . except that one guy she’s loved since preschool.
The guy who just walked into her bar.
The guy who doesn’t recognize her.
The guy who is drunk and needs a ride home.
The guy who has a proposition she should definitely refuse.
About the Author:
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Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.
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